There’s never been so much choice when it comes to buying a laptop, which is great news for us – but it also means that there are more machines to sift through before you find your perfect portable. Even if you’re a tech enthusiast, that still means a time-consuming search as you sort through dozens of potential purchases. That’s not ideal – which is why we’ve picked out the best laptops in every key category.
This January’s CES saw many, many announcements of new laptops for 2019, further compounding this first world problem. We’ve started to test the first 2019 machines including this year’s Dell XPS 13 and Huawei’s new MateBook 13.
There’s a lot of devices on the horizon in the form of a just-announced MacBook Air with Retina display and upgraded MacBook Pro with Touch Bar; the Samsung Odyssey which runs Nvidia’s new GeForce RTX 20-series graphics cards and finally LG’s Gram i7, which weighs not one single gram but a still very light 1.3 kgs. Below is the best of what you can buy right now.
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What’s the best laptop right now?
The Dell XPS 13 2019 (from £1,070 on Amazon) is the best laptops you can buy. The performance has been boosted and the price dropped with the same quality screen and slim, sturdy ergonomics.
Acer’s Chromebook 14 (£180 on Amazon) is our pick for the best cheap laptop under £500. It’s light, looks good and has a 12-hour battery life with the intuitive Chrome OS.
If you just care about gaming performance, the best gaming laptop is the MSI GE75 Raider 8SG (from £2,499 on Box). There’s plenty of power for gaming and other computing with a large, absorbing screen and it’s cool and quiet too.
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Dell XPS 13 (2019)
WIRED Recommends: Dell’s XPS 13 is thin, light and capable weight: 1.2kg | Size: 11.6mm thick | Battery life: Up to 21 hours | Screen: 13.3-inch 1080p/4K | RAM: 8/16GB | Storage: Up to 1TB | CPU: Up to 8th gen Core i7 | OS: Windows 10 Home
We previously recommended the XPS 13 because it was a stunning, versatile machine – and sensible upgrades and small tweaks make the 2019 version even better. With the new Dell XPS 13 (2019) you get Intel Whiskey Lake processors, which deliver improved efficiency and a performance boost. The webcam has moved to a more sensible position above the panel, and the existing silver and rose gold options have been joined by a bright, metallic finish called ‘frost’.
Elsewhere, the XPS 13 is the same – and that’s no bad thing. It still weighs 1.2kg and is just 12mm thin, and it’s sturdy thanks to aluminum and fiberglass construction. The bezel is tiny, the power button still doubles as a fingerprint reader, and you still get a solid selection of USB Type-C and Thunderbolt ports.
The screen remains available in 4K touch and 1080p non-touch variations, and quality is exceptional. The fast, consistent keyboard is one of the best on any ultraportable.
On the inside, those new Intel CPUs are joined by plentiful RAM and SSD options. Entry-level, Core i3 machines start at £999 – £100 cheaper than last year. There are loads of mid-range choices, and the £1,848 top-end model undercuts last year’s £1,929 laptop while offering a Core i7 CPU and vast SSD.
Any configuration will scythe through day-to-day computing, media playback, and Office work. Core i7 models will run tough work tools, too, although you’ll need something beefier for, particularly demanding software. And, finally, battery life is a little better – so expect a full day of use from the XPS 13, especially if you have the Full HD model rather than the UHD display. The lower prices are welcome, and presumably Dell’s response to the Huawei MateBook line.
The XPS 13’s weak point remains its lack of a discrete GPU – something that the Huawei does offer.
Dell has retained the XPS 13’s best points while making helpful changes in key departments – all while dropping the price. The Dell XPS 13 is better than ever, which is why it remains our favorite laptop.
Pros: Updated processors; cheaper prices; fantastic ergonomics
Cons: Still no dedicated graphics
Price: From £1,070 (i3), £1,119 (i5) | Check price on Amazon | Currys
Acer CB3-431 Chromebook 14
The best cheap laptop under £500
Weight: 1.68kg | Size: 11.6mm thick | Battery life: Up to 14 hours | Screen: 14-inch 720p/1080p | RAM: 4GB | Storage: 32GB | CPU: 1.6 GHz dual-core Celeron N3060 | OS: Chrome OS
There aren’t many better options than a Chromebook if you want something portable and affordable, and Acer’s CB3-431 Chromebook 14 (£249) is the best of the bunch.
Chrome OS gives you the freedom to work online – which is perfect if you’re already familiar with Google’s products – and the Acer’s useful 12-hour battery life, Intel Celeron processor and 4GB of dedicated memory ensures that you’ve got enough power to zip around between tabs and apps. Those are, of course, modest specs but it’s capable enough for what you need from a Chromebook.
The well-constructed aluminum alloy housing does a good job of balancing strength and weight, and the 14-inch Full HD display gives plenty of screen real estate. And, if you need more, Acer also sells a 15.6-inch variant. It’s light, affordable and versatile – and so Acer’s latest Chromebook is ideal for zooming around the web.
Pros: Intuitive Chrome OS software; lightweight, attractive design
Cons: Celeron chip isn’t particularly powerful; limited storage
Price: £249 | Check price on Amazon | Currys | Very
MSI GE75 Raider 8SG
Our top gaming laptop is hugely powerful
Weight: 2.66kg | Size: 27.5mm thick | Screen: 17.3-inch 1080p | RAM: 16GB | Storage: 512GB SSD/ 1TB hard disk | CPU: Up to 8th gen six-core Core i7 | OS: Windows 10 Home/Pro
There’s no denying that the MSI GE75 is expensive, but this £2,499 notebook delivers huge power with less compromise than its rivals.
The full-power version of the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 delivers a fearsome amount of gaming grunt. This GPU will run eSports titles and today’s trickiest single-player games without breaking a sweat. The powerful graphics core is supported by a six-core i7 CPU, 16GB of memory and a 512GB SSD and a 1TB hard disk. That’s space for loads of games – and enough power for virtually any task. And, if you want to save some cash, RTX 2070 models cost around £400 less.
The 17.3-inch screen’s huge diagonal delivers great immersion, and there’s enough graphics power to deliver triple-figure framerates to the 144Hz screen – so smooth gaming is ensured. Quality is great, too, with stonking colors and acceptable contrast.
Remarkably, the MSI plays the latest games without making much noise – it’s quieter than most of its rivals. The speakers are decent, too, with ample volume and clarity.
The MSI’s exterior blends brushed aluminum with red accents, and there are plenty of ports. The networking is beefed up by gaming experts Killer, and the SteelSeries keyboard has more snap and travel than most chiclet units. The trackpad buttons offer a satisfying, crisp action. The downsides are not surprising. The MSI weighs a hefty 2.7kg, and battery life is expectedly poor.
In every department that counts, though, the GE75 is fantastic. The RTX 2080 is a powerhouse, the rest of the components are great, and the machine is impressively cool and quiet. The screen, keyboard, trackpad, and speakers are all good too making this is one of the best gaming laptops around right now.
Pros: Huge gaming power; cool and quiet; absorbing, large screen
Cons: Some noticeable fan noise; high price; unsurprisingly poor battery life
Price: £2,499 | Check price on Box
Our favorite Chromebook
Weight: 1.11kg | Size: 11.2mm thick | Battery life: Up to 10 hours | Screen: 12.3-inch 2400×1600 | RAM: 16GB | Storage: 8/16GB | CPU:7th gen Core i5 or i7 | OS: Chrome OS
It might seem odd to spend £999 on a Chrome-based laptop, but the Google Pixelbook (£999) has plenty going on to justify the high price.
For starters, it has a convertible design – so it can function as a laptop, a tablet or a media screen. It’s only 11mm thin, too, and has a body made from brushed aluminum. It certainly offers more strength and sleek design that the more affordable Chromebooks that litter the market.
On the inside, there’s a pin-sharp 2,400 x 1,600 touchscreen that really comes into its own if you buy the £99 stylus. The Pixelbook uses 7th-generation Intel hardware, so you’ll never experience any software slowdown. You get full access to Google Play, so you can run the full gamut of Android apps.
There are a glass trackpad and a stonking keyboard with ample travel and a comfortable, consistent typing experience. The excellent ergonomics make it a genuine contender if you need a lightweight machine for writing on the road.
The speakers are a bit tinny, and cheaper Chromebooks with weaker CPUs have better battery life, but these are minor and expected issues. The price is high, too. However, if you want a Chromebook and money is no object, the Pixelbook is your pick.
Pros: Stunning design; Full Android app access; excellent screen
Cons: Tinny speakers; Better battery life available elsewhere
Price: £999 | Check price on Currys | Very | John Lewis
Huawei MateBook 13
Ultra-thin and lightweight
Weight: 1.11kg | Size: 14.9mm thick | Battery life: Up to 10 hours | Screen: 13-inch 2160×1440 | RAM: 8GB | Storage: 256GB SSD | CPU:8th gen Core i5 or i7 | OS: Windows 10 Home
The Huawei MateBook 13 (£749) is an updated version of the award-winning MateBook X Pro. Impressively, this latest version makes subtle refinements while also lowering the price. This year’s models cost £899 and £1,099 – while the Pro machines arrived at £949 and £1,149.
The screen is a noticeable alteration: last year’s model had a 13.9-inch panel with a 3,000 x 2,000 resolution, but this cheaper MateBook has a 13-inch screen at 2,160 x 1,440. You lose out on some crispness, but this touchscreen is still terrific. It’s sharp enough for every task, and it is 3:2 aspect ratio provides extra vertical space. It’s bright and punchy, with stunning vibrancy. And, as an added bonus, the smaller screen means that the MateBook is narrower, lighter and not as deep as its predecessor. It also undercuts the MacBook Air and Dell XPS 13 for size in several departments.
Despite the reduced price and dimensions, Huawei maintains the MateBook’s performance. Its Core i5 or Core i7 CPUs handle Office tools and loads of browser tabs, and an Nvidia MX150 core tackles light gaming and photo-editing. The MacBook Air has weaker CPUs, and neither rival has discrete graphics.
You only get 8GB of memory rather than 16GB, but that’s a minor complaint. Battery life is good, but not great – you get eight hours from the Huawei, but no more.
On the outside, the MateBook retains its stunning metal chassis and satisfying keyboard. The power button doubles as a fingerprint reader. You get two USB-C ports, but no Thunderbolt – a rare misstep.
The MateBook isn’t perfect, but it’s close – it refines last year’s machine and drops the price and the lightweight machine is better value than Apple and Dell’s rivals.
Pros: Ample CPU power; outpaces rivals for GPU ability; slim, light, narrow
Cons: Not all models have Nvidia graphics; reduced RAM amount;
Price: £749 | Check price on Amazon | Currys | Very
Dell Precision 7730
A high-end workstation for photo and video editing
Weight: 1.11kg | Size: 14.9mm thick | Battery life: Up to 10 hours | Screen: 15/17.3-inch 1080p | RAM: 8GB | Storage: 256GB SSD | CPU:8th gen Core i5 or i7 | OS: Windows 10 Pro
If you regularly handle video editing, CAD design or huge database tools on the road, then you’ll need a mobile workstation – and none are better than the Dell Precision 7730.
On the inside, the Precision can be equipped with fast eighth-generation Core i7 processors or heavyweight Intel Xeon chips, and the powerful CPUs can be paired with AMD or Nvidia’s pro graphics chipsets – and with huge amounts of memory and storage. Indeed, the memory is now faster than the previous iteration, plus you get the benefits of a Thunderbolt 3 port. You simply won’t find a laptop with this much raw power – and, crucially, you won’t find any other laptop that has this many customization options.
On the outside, you can opt for screens with 4K resolutions, and the entire machine undergoes military testing – so you can be certain that it’ll survive life on the road.
The Dell Precision 7730 offers enormous power and versatility, but there are inevitable downsides. Battery life won’t be particularly good, and this 30mm thin, 17.3-inch machine weighs 3.17kg and depending on the specification. It’s hardly cheap, too, with prices starting at £2,014. If you do want true desktop power on the road, though, it’s worth paying for – and nothing does it better than the Precision 7730.
Pros: Unbeatable mobile power; unrivaled customization; high-quality screen
Cons: Necessarily heavy and bulky design; expensive
Price: From £1,670 | Check price on Dell